In reality, matters were absolutely different, and those who harmed England the most at that time were precisely the people who proclaimed that they, and they alone, were loyal to her, and knew what was necessary and essential to her interests and to her future at the Cape of Good Hope and the Rand. Foremost amongst them were the adherents of Rhodes, and this fact will always cling to his memory—most unfortunately and most unjustly, I hasten to say, because had he been left absolutely free to do what he liked, it is probable he would have been the first to get rid of these encumbrances, whose interferences could only sow animosity where kindness and good will ought to have been put forward. Cecil Rhodes wanted to have the last and definite word to say in the matter of a settlement of the South African difficulties, and as no one seemed willing to allow him to utter it, he thought that he would contrive to attain his wishes on the subject by seeming to support the exaggerations of his followers. Yet, at the same time, he had the leaders of the Dutch party approached with a view of inducing them to appeal to him to put himself at their head.
This double game, which while it lasted constituted one of the most curious episodes in a series of events of which every detail was interesting, I shall refer to later in more detail, but before doing so must touch upon another, and perhaps just as instructive, question—the so-called refugees, whose misfortunes and subsequent arrogance caused so many anxious hours to Sir Alfred Milner during his tenure of office at the Cape and later on in Pretoria.
IN FLIGHT FROM THE RAND
One of the greatest difficulties with which the Imperial Government found themselves confronted when relations between Great Britain and the Transvaal became strained was the influx of refugees who at the first hint of impending trouble left Johannesburg and the Rand, and flocked to Cape Town.
The greater number were aliens. From Russia in particular they had flocked to the Transvaal when they heard of its treasures. Adventurers from other parts of Europe, with a sprinkling of remittance men, also deserted Johannesburg. Only the few were real English residents who, from the time the Rand had begun to develop, had been living and toiling there in order to win sufficient for the maintenance of their families. All this mass of humanity, which passed unnoticed when scattered over wide areas in the vicinity of Pretoria or Johannesburg, had lived for many years in the expectation of the day when the power of the Transvaal Republic would be broken. They had discounted it perhaps more than they should have done had the dictates of prudence been allowed to take the lead against the wishes of their hearts.